For the first time, the National Breast Cancer Foundation and the Movember Foundation have joined forces in an initiative to support research aimed at transforming therapy for breast and prostate cancer. The Centre congratulates FFCMH’s senior scientific members Prof Wayne Tilley and Dr Luke Selth,and Dr Theresa Hickey (Dame Roma Mitchell Cancer Research Laboratories, Uni of Adelaide), Prof Gail Risbridger (Monash University), A/Prof Elgene Lim and Prof Susan Clark (Garvan Institute of Medical Research), and Dr Jason Carroll (Cancer Research UK Cambridge Institute) on being awarded this 2.5 million Breast & Prostate Cancer Linkage Grant.
The Research team also includes expert advisory groups of clinicians, researchers and patient advocates from around the world, including Griffith University (Qld), the Dana Farber Cancer Institute, University of Colorado, University of North Carolina (USA), the University of Liverpool (UK), University of Toronto (Canada), the Netherlands Cancer Institute (Netherlands), and the Institute of Biology and Experimental Medicine (Argentina).
Breast and prostate cancer have much in common. The growth of both these cancers are driven by sex steroid hormones, namely estrogens in breast cancer and androgens in prostate cancer. Current treatments for breast and prostate cancer deprive these receptors of the hormones that activate them. While these treatments have improved survival, a major problem is that the cancers don’t like being deprived of sex hormones and become resistant to the therapy. Additionally, completely depriving the body of estrogen and androgen action can cause a range of severe side effects, including early menopause in women and erectile dysfunction in men,” said Professor Tilley.
“Rather than persevering with this ‘sledge hammer’ approach to inhibit the activity of estrogen and androgen receptors in breast and prostate cancer, which we’ve used for the past 70-100 years and at best yields incremental improvements, we need to be innovative and develop completely new therapeutic strategies,” he said. Instead of completely blocking the sex hormone receptors by depriving the body of hormones, the research team will test whether the receptors can be “reprogrammed” so that they no longer drive cancer growth but instead function as they would in normal breast or prostate tissues.
Another important aspect of this innovative strategy is that reprogramming of the hormone receptors could be achieved by repurposing existing drugs that are safe and already approved for other medical purposes, which should vastly increase the speed of translating findings from the laboratory to the clinic.